Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Occupy and the Lumpenprolitariat, and close of a time

The move being done, it's strange to be on the other side of yet another large border between parts of my life. The details of those past flavours are pretty sharp in my mind, like I somehow toon an emotional snapshot of them; if I were to wake up in Pittsburgh in one of my apartments there, still in one of my past relationships, I am sure the details of things since could smoothly fade in that post-dream-adjustment period; the details of that skill of navigating mental worlds almost become activated when I think what that would feel like; perhaps it should not be so surprising given that we all probably manage such transitions at least once (possibly twice or more) every day as we enter and leave sleep. There is, na klar, a physiological component to such a transition, but the co-occurence of the mental transition and the brain-chemistry transition (to the extent they're separable) means it's at least plausible we'd trigger it partway with the right mental states. I am not sure if I would welcome a transition to most of those past states, but there are a few where it'd at least be very tempting to rewind my entire life to where I was, and to continue from there rather than here, even losing almost everything of now as a murky dream. There are also small, mostly invisible parts of me that are hedging on the reality of now; I am sure they're mainly doing so because they're present in some sense when I'm asleep, but it will take some time for the reality of this to really sink in.

I think the plurality of self, or really the wrongness of overbelief in the coherency of our drives and intuitions, is an important insight into human nature; that narratives of human nature that neglect that are faulty.

Was amused to see that the recently-featured DailyShow controversy over a food co-op in Brooklyn is right across from the teahouse I've been hanging out in most evenings. I am intrigued by the idea of a co-op that requires actual work of its members; this appeals to me and I might join. On the topic that was covered by the Daily Show, I think the co-op would've been prudent to instate a boycott of products made (or believed to be made) in the settlements outside the 1967 borders, or a boycott similarly targeted. It might be prudent to make that in-practice against all of Israel given the unfortunate tendency to rebrand products to avoid such boycotts in the past (as reported in Ynet, an Israeli newspaper I sometimes read), but it should not in principle be a boycott of all of Israel. Likewise, it would be prudent to avoid products made in other countries with very low labour standards or human rights abuses.

I've been thinking about Occupy and the Lumpenprolitariat. For those of you not familiar with the term, it's from Marxian theory, describing the bottom class of people, lower than the workers, who are averse to useful labour. The perpetually homeless, many mentally ill, and some other parts of society belong to this class; they are not the prolitariat whom Marx (and other socialists, myself included) are primarily interested in helping with economic or institutional restructuring of society. I feel we do owe them a duty, as we owe all of society, but the point of protest cannot be primarily on their behalf.

What do we owe the Lumpenprolitariat? I present again a long-held structure:

  • We owe to all of humanity the basic requirements of life: food, water, sleep, shelter, emergency health care, opportunities to acquire literacy and access to literature, a path for self-improvement, and a minimum of things considered needed for dignity (clothes, privacy in restroom use, quiet time, etc). This is owed regardless of whether the person is willing or able to work for society's benefit, and it is owed even to those in prison. We label this as "basic needs being met".
  • For those who are willing to labour, or who have already done an expected amount of labour over the course of their life and are now retired, we owe reasonable standards of food, water, sleep, shelter, healthcare, education, shelter, security, and the like. We label this as "reasonable needs being met".
  • Having already met the basic and reasonable needs of all of those in society, for those who display some level of excellence in skill or inginuity or diligence or the like in their productive labour, or who make some other exceptional and rare valued contribution to society, we may allocate resources needed to cause some or all of that person (and not their descendants or family)'s needs to be met at a luxury level, with the understanding that acts of ill character or pressing other social needs may cause such an allocation to be revoked, and that all such allocations must be as public in form as possible so people may choose to revoke it if they please.
That framework again enumerated, the Lumpenprolitariat are owed benefits at the first level.

Returning to the original topic, I do not regret that Occupy chose to provide food and space to the lumpenprolitariat in areas that it claimed. Particularly given that there are a number of prolitariat right now who are recent homeless due to the economic calamity and who would take jobs if they were available. I do resent, as a state socialist, the anarchosocialist overemphasising the lumpenprolitariat's plight, as while the system has certainly failed many of them, much of their harm in particular is self-made.

However, and this is an important change since the days of the Marxians, we better understand the nature of mental illness at this point, and many lumpenprolitariat are (Visibly or otherwise) not capable of work; Marx was likely right to consider them irredeemable given the tools and understanding of the time, but we have better treatments of various kinds that can help many of them live productive lives. We also have the guilt of 60 years of bad policy on our hands; in the 1950s, the United States adopted policies that shut down many mental health facilities and dumped many mentally ill people on the street, largely in the wake of scandals at existing facilities, and ill-advised attmpts to cut budgets.

As uncomfortable as it would be to apply such restrictions to mentally-well people, we have weakened our ability to serve the severely mentally ill (or the rest of society) by applying to them too many of the same concerns for civil liberties as the general public; a difference balance must be struck.

Occupy's errors with regards to the Lumpenprolitariat date back to the origins of the modern Anarchosocialist tradition in Mikhail Bakunin; as many of the leadership of regional Occupys are at least havily influenced by local Anarchosocialists, the error is unsurprising, and fits the general pattern of Anarchosocialist movements in modern developed countries (that's opposite those of state socialists); considerable energy because of the easy appeal of a populist form of socialism, but policies that are tethered to be easily explained in a shouting match among the least educated (insufficient technocracy) and therefore ineffective. The correct pragmatic handling of the issue would've been to consider the Lumpenprolitariat important to serve for ethical reasons but not a focus for the movement.

Also, OMG the "Quest" view in Google Maps, for 1 April, is awesome! Dragon Warrior 1 Love!


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